"Blood on our hands": The Hillsborough cover-up and how police sought to blame dead fans for their own failings - 12/09/2012
Source : http://www.mirror.co.ukSouth Yorkshire Policebranded “vengeful and spiteful” by families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died on April 15 1989
The police force responsible for a “monumental cover-up” over the Hillsborough disaster finally admitted yesterday: “We’ve got blood on our hands.”
The cynical, calculated action of South Yorkshire Police was branded “vengeful and spiteful” by families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the Sheffield stadium April 15, 1989.
In a dossier exposing the appalling attempts to blame Liverpool supporters for the deaths, the full extent of the force’s back-pedalling is laid bare for the first time after 23 years.
The report, compiled following a two-year investigation by an independent panel, found:
* up to 164 statements from officers were falsified or amended to shift blame from the police on to innocent supporters – with 116 having potentially damaging comments deleted.
* stricken fans, including children as young as 10, had their blood alcohol levels tested immediately after the fatal crushes to try to show they were drunk and out of control.
* checks were made on the police national computer of those who died in a desperate bid by police to see if they had criminal records “to impugn their reputations”.
* senior officers and Tory MP Irvine Patnick put forward damaging and wholly untrue allegations to a Sheffield news agency – infamously published in The Sun – that fans stole from the dead and urinated on police.
South Yorkshire Chief Constable David Crompton admitted last night: “It is a damning report and I was shocked.
“I would offer my profound apologies to the families of the 96 and Liverpool fans as a whole. Statements were changed to try and make things better than they were and that is unacceptable at any level.”
He said he “stands ready” to help prosecute anyone who has broken the law. He added: “The cover-up has lasted for 23 years.”
Asked if the South Yorkshire force had blood on its hands he said: “In a manner of speaking, maybe. Yes, I think so.”
The report into how police responded in the aftermath of the disaster is damning.
It says: “They sought to deflect responsibility on to the Liverpool fans, presenting a case that emphasised exceptional levels of drunkenness and aggression, alleging many arrived at the stadium late, without tickets and determined to force entry. Beyond police accounts, there is no evidence of substance to support this view.”
Even as distraught relatives were identifying the bodies of loved ones they were subjected to “insensitive, intrusive and irrelevant” questioning about their drinking habits, the report says.
Amid growing fears that police would come under public attack, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was briefed on the situation following the publication of Lord Justice Taylor’s report, which rightly blamed the disaster on the police’s failure to exert control.
She was told “the defensive and at times close to deceitful” behaviour of senior cops in South Yorkshire Police “sounded depressingly familiar”. Just five years earlier Thatcher had used the same force to police the miners’ strike.
Suspicions remain that clear instructions were issued following the Thatcher briefing that the police were not to be held responsible – triggering the start of the cover-up. Asked about the existence of minutes from that
notorious meeting, Prof Phil Scraton, a member of the independent panel, said: “There is probably no such document.
“Her [Thatcher’s] press secretary Bernard Ingham said a tanked-up mob had forced its way into the stadium. But that was verbal information. To think it was committed to paper would be wrong.”
David Cameron yesterday issued a profound apology on behalf the nation to the families of the 96. He said they had suffered a “double injustice” – the failure of authorities on the day and the “indefensible” cover-up that followed.
He told a hushed Commons the details of the report “completely took your breath away”.
He said: “With the weight of the new evidence in this report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years.” Many MPs were in tears as he detailed how lives could have been saved and how the fans were vilified by the police.
He said it was “wrong” the families had to wait for so long for the truth and “wrong” that the police altered records and tried to blame the fans.
The PM condemned “the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths”.
He added: “On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long.”
Leigh MP Andy Burnham said the report had revealed a “monumental cover-up” and a “sickening campaign of vilification against the victims”.
He said it exposed a “catalogue of negligence, appalling failure and sheer mendacity” in a tragedy that should have been prevented. Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram added: “This shows the city was right – that there was a deliberate attempt to shift the blame and to instigate a cover-up at the very highest level.”
Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son James, 18, said: “I think what the families have been put through for 23 years has been an absolute disgrace.
“They [the police] were the liars and we were the truthful and innocent ones and it’s been proven today.
“The apology doesn’t make us feel better because we are still and always will be the losers at Hillsborough.” She added: “The families and supporters were the eyes, the ears, and by God, we were the voices and we used our voices to get to this stage and I’m so proud of all our families for that.”
South Yorkshire ambulance service, Sheffield Wednesday and the city’s council also apologised yesterday to relatives of the victims.
In a statement, Liverpool FC said: “The club commends the report and welcomes the Prime Minister’s apology to the families and survivors on behalf of the Government.
“After 23 long and painful years, our fans have finally been fully exonerated of all blame. Today, the world knows what we have always known – that Liverpool fans were not just innocent on that terrible day but that there was reprehensible and hurtful misrepresentation of the truth.”
Club chairman Tom Werner added: “We hope the findings will give some comfort to the families.”
Flowers, football shirts, scarves and teddy bears, were left near a memorial stone at Hillsborough yesterday.
And thousands of people gathered in Liverpool city centre last night for a vigil in memory of those who died.
Yesterday ex-Tory MP Sir Irvine Patnick refused to comment on calls for him to be stripped of his knighthood following his “shameful” comments after the disaster.
Sir Irvine is said to have suggested at the time that drunken Liverpool fans forced entry to the ground and contributed to the fatal crush – claims that have now been shown to be completely false.